Fixed Income Investments - Asset-Backed Securities (ABS)

An asset-backed security is a security that is backed by a pool of loans or receivables. These include: auto loans, consumer loans, commercial assets (planes, receivables), credit cards, home equity loans, and manufactured housing loans.

ABSs are essentially the same thing as a mortgage-backed security except that the security is backs assets such as loans, leases, credit card debt, a company's receivables, royalties, etc and not mortgage based securities.

Special Purpose Vehicles and Their Effect on Asset-backed Securities
SPVs are also referred to as a "bankruptcy-remote entity" whose operations are limited to the acquisition and financing of specific assets. The SPV is usually a subsidiary company with an asset/liability structure and legal status that makes its obligations secure even if the parent company goes bankrupt.

Thanks to Enron, SPVs/SPEs are household words. These entities aren't all bad though. They were originally (and still are) used to isolate financial risk.

A corporation can use such a vehicle to finance a large project without putting the entire firm at risk. Problem is, due to accounting loopholes, these vehicles became a way for CFOs to hide debt. Essentially, it looks like the company doesn't have a liability when they really do. As we saw with the Enron bankruptcy, if things go wrong, the results can be devastating.

Why Issue Asset-Backed Securities?
The primary motive for issuing asset-backed securities is to take an asset, such as a receivable, a loan or some other form of illiquid asset, and move it off the balance sheet. This helps the parent to clean up its balance sheet and monetize those receivables rather than waiting for the payments to come in. It can also help protect those assets in case the parent defaults. This is possible because the SPV that was created is a separate entity.

Types of Credit Enhancements
Credit enhancement is designed to reduce risk. It comes in two forms:

  1. Internal Enhancements: Internal enhancements come in the form of reserve funds over collateralization and senior/subordinated structures. These will be covered in more detail in the CFA Level II exam.
  2. External Enhancements: External enhancements come in three forms of third-party guarantees. These include: corporate guarantee, letter of credit and bond insurance. The enhancement can come from the parent company or from the newly created company that holds the assets. One problem with external enhancements is that one not only has to analyze the assets and the company that owns them but also the company that is "wrapping" or insuring the debt.

Collateralized Debt Obligations
An investment-grade security backed by a pool of bonds, loans and other assets. CDOs do not specialize in one type of debt but are often non-mortgage loans or bonds.

Similar in structure to a collateralized mortgage obligation (CMO) or collateralized bond obligation (CBO), CDOs are unique in that they represent different types of debt and credit risk. In the case of CDOs, these different types of debt are often referred to as 'tranches' or 'slices'. Each slice has a different maturity and risk associated with it. The higher the risk, the more the CDO pays.

Yield Curves
Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    How To Choose A Financial Advisor

    Many advisors display similar skillsets that can make distinguishing between them difficult. The following guidelines can help you better understand their qualifications and services.
  2. Investing

    Asset Manager Ethics: Investment Process and Actions

    Managers, in developing their investment process, need to determine some “general rules” that make it meaningful. We offer six.
  3. Professionals

    Career Advice: Financial Analyst Vs. Investment Banker

    Read an in-depth comparison about working as a Financial Analyst vs. working as an Investment Banker, two highly prestigious business careers.
  4. Professionals

    Advisors: Which Certifications Are Essential?

    The right advisor credentials can make all the difference, but wading through some 100 certifications can be a challenge. Here's some help.
  5. Investing Basics

    Asset Manager Ethics: Valuation Is A Tricky Business

    Asset managers must accurately represent all of a clients assets in the client portfolio. This can be tricky for unique and hard-to-value assets.
  6. Personal Finance

    Top 10 Most Valuable Sports Teams in 2015

    Cleats, pads and profits: we take a look at the top 10 most valuable sports teams in the world.
  7. Professionals

    Chinese Slowdown Affects Iron Ore Market

    The Chinese economy's ongoing slowdown is having a major impact on iron ore demand.
  8. Personal Finance

    Invest in Costco? First Understand Its Balance Sheet

    A strong balance sheet sets a company apart and boosts investor confidence. How healthy is Costco based on an analysis of its balance sheets from the last two years?
  9. Investing Basics

    Brokers and RIAs: One and the Same?

    Brokers and registered investment advisors have some key differences. Here's what you need to know.
  10. Professionals

    DCF Vs. Comparables: Which One To Use

    DCF and Comparables models are widely used in equity valuation. We explain the pros and cons of each method.
  1. Personal Financial Advisor

    Professionals who help individuals manage their finances by providing ...
  2. CFA Institute

    Formerly known as the Association for Investment Management and ...
  3. Chartered Financial Analyst - CFA

    A professional designation given by the CFA Institute (formerly ...
  4. Security Analyst

    A financial professional who studies various industries and companies, ...
  1. What are the differences between a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and a Certified ...

    The differences between a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) are many, but comes down ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How do I become a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)?

    According to the CFA Institute, a person who holds a CFA charter is not a chartered financial analyst. The CFA Institute ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What types of positions might a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) hold?

    The types of positions that a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is likely to hold include any position that deals with large ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Who benefits the most from prepaid expenses?

    Prepaid expenses benefit both businesses and individuals. Prepaid expenses are the types of expenses that are bought or paid ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. If I am looking to get an Investment Banking job. What education do employers prefer? ...

    If you are looking specifically for an investment banking position, an MBA may be marginally preferable over the CFA. The ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Can I still pass the CFA Level I if I do poorly in the ethics section?

    You may still pass the Chartered Financial Analysis (CFA) Level I even if you fare poorly in the ethics section, but don't ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Zero-Sum Game

    A situation in which one person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, so that the net change in wealth or benefit is zero. ...
  2. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
  3. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
  4. Revenue

    The amount of money that a company actually receives during a specific period, including discounts and deductions for returned ...
  5. Normal Profit

    An economic condition occurring when the difference between a firm’s total revenue and total cost is equal to zero.
  6. Operating Cost

    Expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis.
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!